The First Congregational Church
United Church of Christ
Confirmation Sunday, June 4, 2000
by Sarah Leidheiser
It's an honor to be in the pulpit today to address you all about what has been going on with the confirmation class for the last 8 months. I've watched so many other "big teenagers" affirm their baptism on the chancel steps, and today I finally had my chance. Confirmation was something that always seemed so far away until today. It's hard to believe that it's been 15 years since I was baptized in this sanctuary. Not all of us confirmands grew up in the confines of this church, though. We have all joined together from different corners of Ohio and even Kansas to join this church. I'm glad that I'm finally confirmed- I've been anticipating this for 2 years because we had to wait for the new minister to arrive before beginning classes. Finally, as eighth and ninth graders, we got the ball rolling this fall.
On September 30th, we met for the first time in the church parlor; anticipating our confirmation journey; anxious about what the following months would bring. We met amidst desserts and warm apple cider on a Thursday night. With Interim Pastor John Gantt, we discussed our confirmation hopes, expectations, and ideas with the parents and prospective confirmands.
After that, October, November, and December came and went. With a forthcoming pastor, the confirmation process was delayed until his arrival. We paired up with our adult mentors while waiting, but the class didn't meet again formally until January 31- the day that everything really started. Meeting again in the parlor, we met Rev. Ahrens and reshaped our goals. Class times and a confirmation date were agreed upon, and our quote unquote "dreadful" textbooks were handed out for us to start working in.
We raced through the bible starting on February 7th and plowed through it in a record time of 5 weeks. Classes became increasingly vivacious; with mild chuckles evolving into whole hearted belly laughs. By March, we were in full swing and anyone else in the building must have heard the noise from the pastor's meeting room; our private den. Ted's versions of the parables in the Bible made even Rev. Ahrens burst out laughing along with us. We had become almost like siblings- bickering good-naturedly and joking together through all class. An average class time would consist of trickling together at about 7:00, then eating and getting comfortable for 10 minutes. After we had loaded our plates with puffcorn and other sugary snacks, administrative mattered were discussed. That time included making decisions for a date to go on a class trip, the upcoming weeks events, and the changing of times and dates. Then we got down to the religion stuff, always finishing just short of our goal and having to carry lessons over into upcoming class periods. The Saturday morning get-togethers carried a very different atmosphere- the room was silent except the muttering of the textbook answers and occasional whimpering for more juice or doughnuts.
Besides the redundant classes, we also got to get to know each other on our two fieldtrips- one to a Catholic mass and the other to a Jewish synagogue. The trip to the synagogue was particularly interesting because it was so different from the way that we worship. After the service at the synagogue, we commuted over to City Center to eat out a Max and Erma's before our overnight at the Church. We headed over to the church after we ate- but first we had to go Kroger-ing for snacks! We bought sooo much food, but we ate almost all of it that night. Our first time to just hang out together, we played Sardines, made a temporary four square court, and talked together deep into the night. Class the next morning was even quieter than usual- the only people with enough energy to talk were the mentors that hadn't had to stay overnight. May zoomed by, as class met together only one more time with Sarah Giffen as our guest speaker on the Christian view of death and dying. We all met with Rev. Ahrens one-on-one to discuss our decision to join the church. Yesterday we got together again with the parents and mentors to take care of the final preparations for today's service. That's a lot to have done since January!
Confirmation has been more than just a class… it has been an experience. I'm amazed how much I've learned and how much I didn't know beforehand. Besides learning religion, I got a lot of other relationships out of the last 5 months. All of the confirmands share a special bond together, and we will be special to Rev. Ahrens because we have been his first confirmation class at 1st church. He has spent more time with us so far than almost any other members here today. I can only express my gratitude to the Search Committee for finding him! I'm going to remember something special about each person in this class. I'll never forget Ted's comparison of John the Baptist to Don King, and Alice's ability to know what's going on in class, yet being able to remain in a dreamlike state. I'll always remember Heather for the multiple bags of the addicting Puffcorn and Frank for the vicious games of Chinese ping-pong that he completely clobbered me in on the youth retreat. Stefanie will remain in my heart not only because I grew up with her, but because of the wonderful insights that she had on religion. And Rev. Ahrens, I'll always carry with me a vision of you as an extremely competitive foursquare player and of you hiding in your shirt during that one class. I know that all of the confirmands will continue to cherish some of the most influential people involved in this process- our mentors. A rare circumstance, we as teenagers have developed strong bonds where we can actually trust an adult for a change of pace. And the best part of having mentors was that they weren't our parents! I'll relish all of these memories and keep them close to my heart as I continue in my faith journey.
by Ted Endo
Now that I have completed the confirmation process, I think that I can confidently say that I know every event that ever took place in the Bible. And, truth be told, I have probably used every excuse available as to why I didn't have my homework. As you can see, confirmation taught us a lot of things. Most importantly, it taught us that we need to be active leaders in our church in order to ensure its property in the future.
Take a look around, I'm sure many of you will notice that the majority of the people sitting here today are mature adults. Herein lies one of our churches greatest short comings. Our youth congregation is simply not large enough.
This is not to say that our older members are not valuable, but we need younger members in order to assure that there will be a congregation in the decades to come.
If we are going to attract younger members, we will have to implement new programs and activities in order to accommodate a younger crowd. To start with, our younger members would be eternally grateful if we refurbish the playground a little. The playground is located to the west side of the church, but it is barely used due to lack of sturdy equipment. I realize that rebuilding a playground doesn't sound all that important to many of you, but for our younger members, it can make church a lot more fun.
For the members in their pre teens and teens like myself, I am sorry to have to tell you, that we are not always ecstatic to wake up Sunday mornings and come to church. For some of you, this may come as a surprise. If you have ever had kids, you know exactly what I am talking about. It's not that we are against God or religion, its just that on an early morning during the weekend, about the last thing we want to do it try to keep pitch on a hymn we have never heard before. In other words, our parents are one of the main motivations we have for coming to church. As a church, we need to make more programs that deal specifically with the youth members. Whether it be more trips and activities like the ones we already do or just getting kids together on a Sunday morning to relax and shoot the breeze. Not only will we be more motivated to come to church, we will be a lot more receptive when we go to Sunday School and church.
As the present youth congregation at this church, we are also willing to do our part to attract more people our age to the congregation. This winter, we discussed spiritual gifts in Sunday School. As we learned in twelfth Corinthians: "there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit, and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord, and there are varieties of activities." We are all ready and able to use our own spiritual gifts to bring more young people to the church.
The Rev. Martin Luther King started his most famous speech by saying, "I have a dream." So in his words, I'd like to end my speech by saying, I have a dream, that one day, I will be able to look out over this congregation, and see people of all ages, cultures and ethnic backgrounds, looking back at me. The problem is, without a larger youth congregation, there might not be any congregation at all. That is why we need to act now and attract more young people to our church, because not only do we provide the body of the church with life and vitality, we will ensure it's longevity for years to come.
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